From our geography lessons in secondary school, the North Eastern Part of Kenya always seemed a hostile, dusty and underdeveloped part of the country. Our perceptions were driven by horror stories of insecurity and extreme weather conditions. It is with these thoughts in my mind that I set out to Wajir County on 16th March 2017 to train women aspirants under the #VoteaDada Campaign.
On the day of the training, the women aspirants gathered at the hotel and we began the training. As the day progressed, one participant caught my eye, Ms Mahfudha Abdulahi Haji who was vying for Member of County Assembly, in Ademasajida Ward, Wajir West Constituency.
Ms. Haji was well spoken and well aware of the political environment in which she was contesting. Her passion for leadership was evident as she articulated her agenda for the people of Ademasajida ward in case she was elected. Further interactions with her revealed that indeed she was not a first timer in competitive elections. She indicated that this time round she had strategized well in terms on her choice of political party so as to ensure that she obtained the nomination ticket.
What intrigued me further was that she had previously contested for the same seat in 2013 and out of 5 contestants she emerged second being the only female candidate. In Wajir County where women are not seen as leaders rather caregivers, Mahfudha’s attempt at elective politics was indeed inspiring. At this point I knew I had discovered a diamond in the ruff.
“This is not my first time vying; I know the political environment here in Wajir. The fact that I came second in 2013 means that I can give these men a run for their money. I know they are scared of me since I am vying with party X, but I am determined to give it my best shot, women in my area are suffering due to poor leadership and this must change.” Mahfudha Ali, MCA Aspirant
After the training was over, I spoke to the locals at the hotel who informed me that indeed Mahfudha was a strong candidate despite being a woman and would indeed be a threat to the incumbent. A few weeks later, I was elated to find out that Mahfudha had indeed been cleared by the IEBC and most importantly had secured her party nomination ticket; she was now on the ballot. My excitement was palpable as I confirmed this through the list of candidates published by IEBC.
We continued to stay in touch throughout the campaign period as Mahfudha carried out her campaigns. She faced several challenges in her campaign but the most outstanding one was the patriarchal nature of her community. Women’s movement is highly curtailed as the men determine almost every aspect of the lives of the women in their families. The clan system where male leaders determine who will contest and be elected was a further challenge but still Mahfudha kept on. She continued to refine her campaign messages, to ensure her agents and campaign managers were trained under the #VoteaDada Campaign.
On my last visit to the Wajir before the elections, Mahfudha ensured that her party agents were trained and she was firmly in the race. Unfortunately after the August 8th Elections, she was not elected but came in fifth out of a possible six candidates who were once again all men.
My discussions with Mahfudha thereafter revealed a woman who was albeit disappointed with the results but still determined to pursue leadership despite the loss. She is clear on her agenda for the people of Wajir County and is hopeful that she will succeed in her quest to be Women Representative come 2022.
Programme Officer – Women and Governance
Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA Kenya)